The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf

Wow! This is a page turner. A stunningly well-crafted and empathetic story about: home, families, loss, destruction, inhumanity, kindness, bigotry, migration, wars…

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my classroom.

The story happened in a single school term and started with the symbolism of an empty and mysterious chair in a classroom. At the centre of the story is a lovely and adventurous child whose name was elusive for most parts of the story and a refugee boy, Ahmet, along with the child’s three other friends.

EVERYOBODY STAND BACK RIGHT NOW!

There were fights, laughter, risk taking, adventures all over the story.

…I don’t know why, because there’s nothing more boring than talking about something everyone else can see for themselves…

The story is simply and emotionally told. The story captures humanity at its kindest while at the same time reflecting the realities of the world we live in with regards to how easy it is to allow fear of the unknowns, misconceptions, misrepresentations and doubts influence how the other person is perceived.

‘Books are like people. Look past their covers, and they’ll take you on a Great Adventure!’

The use of literary techniques is written all over the story and the novel is an excellent book that can be used to explore many literary devices, even with children.

Issues like neighbourliness, loneliness and illness were subtly explored in the story.

The pomegranate had smashed open, and all its ruby red seeds had been crushed beneath everyone’s feet.

Different objects in the story symbolise important events and feelings. There was the: pomegranate, boat, empty chair, kitchen window, rucksack, radio…they all stood for different meanings – hope, home, fear, happiness, reminiscence, friendship, memories, sadness…

As you turn the pages of this gem of a book you’ll see what true friendship means and how there’s much more that can be shared with love and care in the little things of life.

…the entire world is full of hearts searching for a place to call home…

This is a very good book that can be used as a family, adult, educator…to explore important issues like migration, asylum seeking and being a refugee.

Home,’ he said quietly, his lion eyes getting very big. ‘I…have…home…

It’s an emotional and at the same time a humorous read. The events in the novel constantly move the reader between happiness and sadness in a subtle manner that creates an emotional roller coaster.

The Boy at the Back of the Class; PB, Pp. 297, Orion Children’s Books. Age: 8+

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